My fellow Americans. I speak to you tonight to tell you something you already know–Washington, D.C. is broken. And with this gridlock, Congress has been unable to address the most critical issues of our day. You elected me to this office twice to get things done. I cannot stand by idly while there are serious problems that Congress refuses to address. To that end, I will take executive action to fix what ails our nation, and make the lives of millions of Americans much better. I am here tonight, to talk about a very important reform needed–tax reform.
The tax code is unfair and places the most severe burden on those who contribute the most to the economy. For far too long, millions of innovators were crushed by the burden of the IRS. I’ve tried to work with the Congress over the last 6 years to reform the tax code, but we could not reach a compromise. Fringe members of the Senate have filibustered every attempt to reform our punitive tax code, and efforts to promote economic flourishing. We just had an election, and the American people have spoken. Elections matter. I’ve heard their message loud and clear–we want tax reform.
It is with that support, that tonight I announce a new plan of executive action to address this vital topic.
First, I have asked the Secretary of Treasury to issue a 3% retroactive refunds to all Americans who paid income taxes during the 2019 tax year. If you paid money, you will get some back, and help spur economic growth. You may recall that this was one of the most popular planks of my tax reform bill that did not pass the Senate. Now, Americans will get the relief they need.
Second, I have worked with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to rearrange our tax brackets. Going forward, all Americans will be subject to a 17% flat tax. No longer will those who earn the most be punished with higher rates of taxes.
Third, I have instructed the Department of Justice to defer all prosecutions for any tax payer that pays at least 17% of their flat tax, even if the old brackets suggest they owe more. Because I cannot actually change the tax code, I can only tell our prosecutors to leave alone those who comply with my new vision of tax reform. Further, the Attorney General will move to dismiss all indictments in cases where an individual has paid at least 17% of his income in past year.
Fourth, I am working with the Vice President to develop a future executive order waiving the corporate income tax. No longer should American companies be forced to ship jobs overseas to take advantage of lower tax rates. The United States should be the leader in the global economy. After privately consulting with the leaders of the great corporations in America, we will announce this policy in due time.
Now, those who oppose my plan may argue that as President, I cannot do this. They may contend that I lack the power under the Constitution to take such unilateral steps. I assure you, that this position is legally unassailable. There is a long tradition of Presidents using Executive Power under the auspices of prosecutorial discretion to shape policy. In 2014, President Obama cited his prosecutorial discretion to defer the deportations of five million immigrants. He argued that since Congress does not give him the power to deport everyone here unlawfully, he can pick and choose who to deport. While at the time I thought the President was wrong to do so, the fact that no court stopped him, has convinced me, and my lawyers in the Justice Department, that this is the correct constitutional duty.
So, to that end, Congress has not given me enough resources to prosecute all tax offenders. In truth, we can’t possibly audit everyone who files a fraudulent tax return. Our federal agents are simply unable to keep up. We simply cannot meaningfully enforce the complicated tax code as it is written. It’s broken. In order to conserve resources, we are shifting to a simple rule for enforcement–pay a flat tax. Therefore, with guidance given to the IRS, they will use a simple formula–17% of gross income. The returns will take a few moments to fill out, and even shorter time to review. If any additional payments are made, a refund will be issued. This is an effective use of federal employees.
Further, my United States Attorneys are overworked. Far too much of their time is spent prosecuting these trivial offenses, when violent crimes go unpublished. It is simply not a good use of their resources to go after hard-working Americans, who are crushed by a brutal tax code. Going forward, under the auspices of prosecutorial discretion, I will re-prioritize the work in the Department of Justice to focus on crimes that harm victims, and leave Americans to flourish and prosper. The United States Attorneys will instruct their staff to shift away from these crimes, and focus on those that really matter.
This announcement continues a long record of executive action I’ve used to shape policy around a gridlocked congress more interested in obstructing, than governing.
In 2017, in order to promote energy independence, I issued an executive order that exempted all hydro-facturing projects from onerous regulations and environmental crimes. As my home state of Texas has become a global leader in energy exploration, we need to promote the companies that are making America great.
In 2018, in order to make Social Security more stable–a project that President Bush started, but did not finish–I instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to refund 2% of all payroll taxes into Americans’ privatized retirement accounts. My executive order provided that the United States Government would also not prosecute those who chose not to pay that 2%, and instead invested it directly.
My greatest accomplishment in 2019 concerned the train wreck that was the Affordable Care Act. In the face of sky-rocketing premiums, rationing of treatment, and never-ending waits, I decided to put a halt to the suffering. I waived the individual mandate. Those who could not afford health insurance were not required to pay for it, and would not be subject to the individual mandate tax. If they decided to pay it, the Treasury Department would issue a refund. Those who declined to pay it would not be asked to. Further, I waived enforcement of the minimum essential coverage requirements. States were allowed to sell plans not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, giving states the freedom to experiment and choose the policies that best fit their citizens. Now, young and health people can buy the catastrophic plans they want. Finally, I ordered my administration to stop collecting the so-called “cadillac tax” on plans that provide generous benefits. Now, if you like your policy, you can keep your policy. And that’s a promise I can keep.
At each stage I have been able to use my executive power to make America a much better country.
I value deeply my oath to “protect and defend the Constitution.” I will continue to do so, and take all steps within my legal authority to make this country great.
Thank you, and God Bless America.
Remarks of President Rick Perry from the White House, November 20, 2020.